Column from 1963: “By the Boeuf with Beth” – Boarding a steamer at Dave’s Bayou for Mardi Gras, ca., 1912
….Traveling south on Highway No. 133, you’ll see a little country store there on your left where you make a sharp turn to your right on the road that swings through the swamp and on to Columbia. If you take the road straight ahead in front of the store, you’re headed for Lake Lafourche, Cat Island and some good fishing, I hear. But I stopped at the little store because this is where there’s a sign: Hebert Post Office.
Over top, the stars and stripes whip in the wind. Inside, back in the post office corner, a box of baby chicks chirp impatiently. Counters and tables are stacked with groceries and items of hardware. There’s the familiar country store smell and I find a box of big red apples tempting me. I bought some and munched on one while waiting to talk with the clerk behind the counter. I learned the clerk is Mr. Palmer Howard, the third generation of his family to serve as Hebert postmaster. He tells me that prior to 1919, the post office was over on Lake Lafourche where his grandfather Luther was postmaster. Then Palmer’s father Martin had it until he took over.
For Hebert history, Mr. Howard referred me to Mr. Henry Hebert. Delighted with my good fortune to have an opportunity to chat with a descendant of the family for which the community is named, I hurried from the store and headed for the lake where Mr. Hebert has a place. I knocked on the door.
A voice called above Art Linkletter’s TV show, “Come in!”
Then the door swung open into a warm living room where I spent an enjoyable visit. I learned that the first Hebert in this area migrated up from south Louisiana in 1849, coming by boat up the Boeuf. There was Hebert’s cotton gin at Hebert’s Landing. Today, all that remains of the original Hebert place is an old barn with a shingled roof that rests forlornly on top of a hill.
“What about steamboats on the Boeuf?” I asked Mr. Hebert.
His eyes sparkled with merriment.
“Oh, my exciting trip on the Garig to the Mardi Gras in 1912!”
He described his trip with such animation, you’d have thought he had just returned.
“Got on the Garig on Thursday at 2 p. m.,” he said.
“Went up Joe’s Bayou, landed there and loaded cotton all night. We got to New Orleans Monday morning.”
And here’s the route they took: down the Boeuf into the Ouachita River, then into Black River, then into Red River and last the Mississippi to New Orleans. When they got in, Mr. Hebert said the Captain dismissed the roustabouts.
Mardi Gras passengers stayed aboard where he had a comfortable bed in a cabin for four.
“And you know what that fare cost me, $12.50! And that was round trip,” he exclaimed.
When the boat made ready for the return trip, roustabouts were rehired with many more than needed clamoring for a job.
“We left New Orleans at 5 p. m. Thursday and got to Hebert on Monday,” he said. “The water was getting low in the Boeuf and a strong wind was blowing. The Captain had a hard time getting up the river, but we made it.”
Mr. Hebert went on to explain that boat captains gaged the water depth by that at Joe’s Bayou. They said if the boat could pass there, they knew they’d have enough water to make Mhoon’s Landing. In my imagination, I’d made that steamboat trip too. On my way home, I crossed the Hebert bridge and looked down on the beautiful Boeuf. I felt that my trip had been really so!The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana11 May 1963, Sat • Page 2